Questions Arise Over Trump's "Bias" Site

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Public-interest groups and civil liberties advocates say there's no clear evidence Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other companies suppress conservative viewpoints. And they say they're troubled by the prospect of government officials, particularly President Donald Trump, seeking to intimidate Silicon Valley over the issue. "A more pressing problem than alleged 'censorship' of any particular viewpoint is the proliferation of misinformation, propaganda, hate speech, terrorist content, and harassment online," said John Bergmayer, a senior counsel at Public Knowledge. "This misguided effort by the White House raises serious constitutional questions and could hamper the ability of platforms to moderate their platforms and take down such content."

Neither the form nor the White House tweet discloses what the administration plans to do with the material it collects. White House spokesman Judd Deere declined to answer that question, saying, "The White House wants to hear from all Americans — regardless of their political leanings — if they have been impacted by bias on social media platforms.”

A Twitter spokesperson said the company enforces its rules "impartially for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation." Facebook, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has made similar assertions in the past. Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, a trade group representing both companies, reiterated that “IA member company platforms don’t have a political ideology or political bias, and it would make no business sense for companies to stifle the speech of half — or any significant portion — their customers." 

Marc Rotenberg, president of privacy watchdog the Electronic Privacy Information Center, questioned the White House's decision to request a wealth of personal information from anyone wishing to share their bias concerns. “The form posted at the White House to gather data from people concerned about the First Amendment is itself a First Amendment problem,” Rotenberg said. “There is no privacy policy, no privacy impact assessment, and no compliance with the federal Privacy Act, all of which could be required if a similar request were made by a federal agency.” The information requested is “very sensitive," Rotenberg added. “Yet there is no indication that the White House has given any thought to the privacy risks of providing this personal data to the federal government.

Trump draws public into bias feud with social media firms